"This is a war film, like many war films, in which timeless and strictly American virtues enable the principle characters to triumph – and 'Hart’s War', because of the year preceding its release, is all the more manipulative."
Directors: Gregory Hoblit
Producers: Wolfgang Glattes David Ladd David Foster Gregory Hoblit Arnold Rifkin
Writers: Billy Ray and Terry George
Features: Screener -- none listed
Col. McNamera -- Bruce Willis
Lt. Hart -- Colin Farrell
“Hart’s War” finds a refurbished scenario (there have been other – and better – POW movies), yet this film focuses on deceit among the captured instead of the anticipated themes of patriotism, courage, and honor.
Lt. Hart and Col. McNamera (whose chiseled mugs you see up close on the cover) are among captured American soldiers at a German POW camp. They are joined, later, by two pilots, both black. A tent spike is found beneath the mattress of one and he is executed. Hart suspects that the man has been framed. Further events display how racism has poisoned the men’s hope.
Hart enables a court-martial (curious that the Nazi leaders would allow this) to find the guilty, yet has to modify the truth in order to keep secret an escape attempt. There is a grab bag of offerings here; yet, although the number of narrative aims is ambitious, the film does not successfully execute one because it is distracted by the others. (I am reminded of a childhood game of basketball in which a friend’s shot diverted mine – and no one scores. Thematically, the film is no different.)
The Germans (like the Russians) are perennial Bad Guys in war films, and it’s a successful concept for them to only inhabit the film’s periphery.
However, I find it difficult to distinguish “Hart’s War” from the time in which it was released. In the months following September of 2001, films donned an enormous moral responsibility. This claim is tangible in “Hart’s War”. This is a war film, like many war films, in which timeless and strictly American virtues enable the principle characters to triumph – and “Hart’s War”, because of the year preceding its release, is all the more manipulative. As an American propagandistic attempt to market patriotism (or courage, or honor), it is arguably successful; by its own merits it is merely decent.